The NBA Draft is just a few days away, and the Atlanta Hawks hold the 24th pick. There has been very little talk up in the media about who the Atlanta Hawks will take with this pick. Michael Cunningham at the AJC recently stated that the Hawks have five players they are considering with this pick. Georgia Tech power forward Gani Lawal, who I mentioned in my previous blog, is one of the five players. There is no mention of who the other four players are.
Hawks assistant GM Dave Pendergraft has talked about what the Hawks are looking at with the 24th pick in the past month. Based on this, the Hawks seem to be focusing on shooters and big men. Their workouts since that article was written supports the idea that they are looking at big men and shooters with this pick. In the Gani Lawal article, the Hawks mention the proverbial best player available cliche and state that they may end up taking a player at a position that is already considered a strong position if that player is the BPA. I feel the BPA is always in the eye of the beholder though. Most teams will tell you they are taking the highest rated player on their board, but what they don’t mention is that they likely weight their board towards their needs.
So, what are the Hawks’ needs? I am of the opinion that the weakest area on this team is its perimeter defense. The Hawks were the 5th worst team in the NBA this past season at defending shots in the 16-23 feet range. A lot of things contributed to that, but I think the most glaring contribution is the Hawks overall lack of top notch defenders on the perimeter. Joe Johnson is considered the best perimeter defender on this team, but Mike Woodson had him guarding people that he had no business guarding. Joe Johnson should never be trying to guard the opposition’s point guard, and he showed a surprising inability to guard opposing small forwards. Marvin Williams is the only player on the team that can guard opposing small fowards, and even his defense probably looks better because his back up Mo Evans was very much below average when defending the small foward position. Jeff Teague didn’t log enough time to really get a feel on how he will do defensively, though I do like his potential because of his tremendous wingspan and his athleticism. Neither Jamal Crawford nor Mike Bibby can guard a chair. Combine that with the fact that Atlanta’s switching defense had Al Horford and Josh Smith guarding opposing guards on the perimeter, and you can see why Atlanta was one of the 5 worst perimeter defending teams in the NBA.
Adding depth on the interior is a need, but I don’t think it is as big of a need as a lot of fans make it out to be. The Hawks were actually one of the better teams in the league at defending shots at the rim and within 10 feet of the basket. If anything, the Hawks need to add a physical body inside that can give them a few minutes, some fouls against the likes of Dwight Howard, and rebound when he is in the game. I think the reason many feel there is such a big need at center is because the Orlando series is fresh on everyone’s mind. The Hawks couldn’t slow down Dwight Howard in that series, but that wasn’t what got them beat. What got them beat was a combination of things, one of which being that they couldn’t defend anyone else on the Magic either. Also, this just happened to be a series where Joe Johnson and Jamal Crawford shot the ball horribly, which leads us to the Hawks next need.
The Hawks also need to add some more shooting to this team, and this is clearly one of the things they are looking for in this draft. Dave Pendergraft was correct though when he said there aren’t many guys in this draft that can shoot, and the ones that can don’t play any defense.
So, who will the Hawks take in this draft. There are apparently five names on the list right now, and we know one of them is Gani Lawal. I’m going to try to guess the other four.
1. Kevin Seraphin, C, Cholet- This is the player who I believe will be the pick. Rick Sund has a history of not only drafting centers, he also has a propensity towards drafting international players. Kevin Seraphin is a unique player and would give the Hawks a lot of what they are lacking inside at the moment. He measured in at around 6’9″ and 263 lbs with a 7’3″ wingspan. He’s got the size and the wingspan to play the center position in the NBA, and at 263 lbs, he has more beef than the Hawks big men outside of Zaza offer. He has the reputation of being a physical defender who can block some shots. He’s also a very solid rebounder who will get both offensive and defensive rebounds for you. He draws a lot of comparisons to Serge Ibaka, who played a key role on the upstart Oklahoma City Thunder this past season. Offensively, Kevin is good around the basket and is athletic enough to be a threat on the pick and roll. His overall skills are very underdeveloped at this point though. He has little to no range on his jumper, and he cannot put the ball on the floor at this time.
2. Solomon Alabi, C, Florida State- Solomon Alabi is one of the few players coming out of college recently that has true center size to go along with solid athleticism. Despite his athleticism though, Solomon can be very awkward and uncoordinated on the floor, which is a common problem among seven footers these days. Solomon measures in at 6’11.5″ without shoes, so he definitely has true height for the position. His wingspan is also 7’5.5″, which is tremendous. His offensive game is very remedial at this point, but he has improved in each season so far. Defensively, Solomon has the ability to make an immediate impact. He can block shots, though not as well as a guy his size should, IMO. He’s also a weak defensive rebounder at this time, which shows his lack of strength at this point. Solomon only averaged around 4 defensive rebounds per game this past season at Florida State. Overall, this guy is a project. He’s every bit as raw as Hasheem Thabeet was last year, and Thabeet spent the entire season in the developmental league.
3. Gani Lawal, PF, Georgia Tech- There isn’t much to add to what I have already posted about Lawal. If he is the pick at 24, it will not be a sexy pick that the fans will be able get excited about. Many may consider it a reach. However, he may be one of the few players who can actually come in and contribute on this team as a rookie. Lawal’s ability to rebound and defend in the low post will get him on the court quickly.
4. Devin Ebanks, SF, West Virginia- Devin is an interesting player in that he has good size at 6’7″ and an above average wingspan of 7’0″ for his height. He is a very good offensive rebounder who can be very active around the basket on the offensive end. He’s got the length and athleticism to effect the game defensively. Devin played in one of the slowest paced offenses in college basketball, and that slow pace did not match his skills. He can be a tremendous player in transition. However, this guy cannot shoot the basketball a lick, and that will be an issue if he cannot improve at the NBA level. Devin hit only 8 of 70 three point shots over the last two years. He’s a small forward in the NBA, and he will end up being little more than a defensive reserve unless he improves his jump shot.
5. Dominique Jones, SG, South Florida – Dominique is a tremendous scorer who is one of the better players in this draft at getting to the rim. He’s a very good finisher when he gets to the rim as well. At 6’3.25″, Dominique boasts an impressive 6’9.5″ wingspan. That combined with his above average athleticism could make him a factor very early in the NBA defensively. Dominique’s biggest drawback is his lack of a consistent jump shot. He’s not a catch and shoot guy and hits a low percentage of shots coming on those opportunities. Dominique recently had a workout with the Hawks where he stated that he didn’t feel like he shot the ball well. This is a player you have to look at though because of his defensive ability and his ability as a scorer. He may never be a truly efficient scorer because of his inconsistent jumper, but he should be able to find a niche as a volume scorer off the bench who can defend. I think if Atlanta takes him, they will do so with the idea that Larry Drew will help improve this guy’s jump shot the way he helped Richard Jefferson.
That is my best guess at who the five are. As I said, I think Kevin Seraphin will end up being the pick, and one of the reasons is that if he shows he isn’t ready for the NBA, the Hawks can stash him overseas for a couple of years until he is ready. There could be others in the mix. Darington Hobson of New Mexico reportedly has been told by more than one team in the 20s that they will draft him if he’s available. Many think Darington is a poor man’s Evan Turner. Terrico White is another guy that could be picked. The 24th pick may be considered high for him, but he’s athletic with a buttery jump shot and the wingspan to make an impact defensively. Another guy is Greivis Vasquez. He’s one of the better catch and shoot shooters in this draft, and I have read that his stock is rising. Overall though, he may lack the athleticism needed to make a big impact in the NBA.